When the team wins, male GPAs lose

When the University of Oregon football team wins, male students’ grades decline, conclude economists who tracked the Ducks’ last nine seasons.

“Our estimates suggest male grades fall significantly with the success of the football team,” the research team, led by Jason Lindo, writes in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Furthermore, the economists find this effect is “larger among students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, and those of relatively low ability.”

Lindo and his colleagues . . . compared grade point averages to the winning percentage of the school’s football team, which ranged over the years from 45 to 92 percent.

“We find that the team’s success significantly reduces male grades relative to female grades,” they write. “This phenomenon is only present in fall quarters, which coincide with the football season.”

Why? Young men drink more and study less to celebrate football victories. Their female classmates also party, but not as hard, surveys indicate.

What’s true for the University of Oregon probably is true for other state universities, the researchers believe.

Oregon is playing in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

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  1. Powerful research that I would say supports finally eliminating the useless GPA.

    • Maybe they should eliminate the useless scoring system at football games too.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      I don’t know if it’s “useless” — but certainly GPA’s aren’t indicative of that of which they are supposedly indicative.

      And, on that basis, this is hardly a cause for serious alarm in the higher ed community.

  2. Maybe they should eliminate football and all other non-academic extracurriculars, both in HS and in college. Most countries do not offer extracurriculars at either level; school is for academics only.

    • I was just reading an article the other day that argued that one of the reasons why the US had the best university system and something like half of the world’s top 100 universities was the fact that unlike most, our system had the attraction of college sports.

      • I enjoy “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” as much as the next red-blooded American male football fan, but every now and again (like once every other column), Gregg Easterbrook makes a pretty lame argument, and this was one of them.

        I’m not too sure what role ‘big time’ football and/or basketball programs have had to do with the overall success of the eight Ivies, MIT, Chicago, Cal Tech, Williams, Amherst, Johns Hopkins, Emory, etc.; or what role ‘big time’ football and/or basketball played in making Stanford, Berkeley, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, etc. as important and as good as they are. All of these schools existed and were prestigious long before there was such a thing as ‘big time’ college sports.

        There are two schools that I can think of that do make a case for Easterbrook, although one isn’t “elite” — Duke and the University of Connecticut. Duke’s basketball team did help it attract a higher caliber of student from outside the southeast and vault it into national prominence. Similarly, UConn’s teams have helped it tap the immense wealth of in-state donors.

        Note that I am not arguing that athletics aren’t a central part of the college experience, even at Division III schools. I simply don’t see a lot of evidence to suggest that the presence of sports, especially ‘big time’ sports, has much to do with the enduring strength and dominance of top-tier US universities.

        • Deirdre Mundy says:

          Actually, the University of Chicago was one of the founding members of the Big 10 and home to the first Heisman trophy winner. It was only after Hutchinson created the core and eliminated all sports that it dropped out– he was concerned that people were spending too much time on football and not enough on academics. (College sports were HUGE in the early 20th Century!)

          At some point they brought sports back, but the programs have never recovered. In fact, when I was an undergrad, they tried to bribe us with free pizza and T shirts so we’d go to varsity games. People would stay for the Pizza and then leave and head over to the Reg so they could study more! 🙂

          So, at least as early as 1939, people realized there was a link between Big 10 sports and poor academics, at least at Chicago!

      • I’d be surprised if there was a big cross-over between the kids on top of the academic pile and those who are part of the major football/party scene; it wasn’t that way when i was in college and it wasn’t that way at the SEC powerhouses attended by three of my kids. I’m betting that most of the party crowd are the weaker students and/or in fluff majors.

  3. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Is there any hope for men?

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Well, this explains why guys do so well at the U of C! But wait… could it just be that men who care more about sports than grades tend to go to Division I schools with great teams so they can get tickets to the games, and that guys who care more about school than about sports tend to go to the Division III schools with crummy athletics but great academics?

    I think that, to really test the “Men do badly when the team does well” hypothesis, we’d need to take a bunch of guys from a school with crummy sports and challenging academics, swap them with a bunch of guys from a school with good sports, and see what happened to each group’s GPA!

  5. Readers of _Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education_ , could have predicted these study results.

    Very good book. Very large problem for education.

    It would make sense to remove universities from the business of training the next generation of pro athletes. (I’m not holding my breath, here.)

    As Murray Sperber points out, the game/party scene feeds the gambling scene at universities. Men are the primary victims of partying and gambling, while females are victims of the sorts of things which happen when young adults get drunk.

  6. This needs a larger sample size. One school, nine years? What’s the margin of error here? Any number of other factors might have caused GPA fluctuations at a single school.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    True–did they cross reference with weather? Also, did they track the effect by class? Because freshman might have a harder time maintaining GPAs than upper classment…

    • Or did they sell out a little that year to get the better team? Allow more marginal students into the school if they played football?

  8. Wouldn’t a school like Duke or U of M be a better case study? Schools with strong academics and a tradition of winning sports programs? Even better, Oregon’s opponent in the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin, constantly rated as one of the best party schools AND one of the best academic schools.

    This seems like hogwash to me.